When I first learned that long-time friend, mom of (how many now?) six amazing kids, and blogger extraordinaire Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom was coming out with a book, my first thought was, finally! I imagined it would be as beautifully produced, thoughtful, and inspirational as every single post she’s ever written. Let’s just say my imagination has not failed me, because the brand new Design Mom: How to Live With Kids: A Room by Room Guide is a keeper, whether you’re a fan of her blog or just want to make your space a little — or a lot — more liveable.

Part aspirational picture book, part practical handbook for every parent who feels like their lives and homes got out of control after having kids (raising my hand), Gabby guides us, room by room, through close to 300 beautifully photographed pages which will surely help parents achieve that elusive balance of practical function and beauty.


Design Mom Book: How to live with kids | Cool Mom Picks review
Lots of Gabby’s general advice reminds me of the KonMari method, like tossing ugly things that came with your home but you never got rid of; and recognizing that surrounding yourself with certain items can give you joy. Also, clean shelves and uncluttered floors open up channels for good energy. Then there are valuable tips that get more specific — everything from shoe storage (the bane of my existence) to keeping backpacks off the floor, the best rugs and sofa fabrics that work for families, clutter management, table manner rules, starting family collections, kids and chores, kitchen organization, creative ways to display kids’ art, even setting family goals.

Related: 5 brilliant ways to store and display your kids’ artwork


Gabby is definitely opinionated about certain aspects of a home, but that’s a good thing. In fact, my favorite page might be the one called Dealing with Disney, in which she gently urges us to limit or entirely steer clear of the licensed character bedding (and posters and dolls and paraphernalia) which our kids tend to beg for, then outgrow nanoseconds later. “You are creating a home, and you have the right to draw lines about what you will and won’t allow in the house,” she urges.

You may or may not agree here, but I’m all, Amen, sister! At least when it comes to decor. I’m admittedly less strict when it comes to breaking down and indulging my daughter in those My Little Pony sneakers that make her happier than ice cream.

She also advocates buying the furniture for your kids that works right now, and not somehow trying to justify a toddler bed as some “investment piece” that you convince yourself you will magically convert into a college desk, years down the line.

And bless you Gabby, for extolling the genius of simple duvet covers for kids’ beds; I find top sheets and fussy layers of bedding way overrated.

Design Mom book review: Gabrielle Blair on tips for living with kids and balancing function and beauty

As a wildly imperfect mom in the housekeeping department, I assure you not to let the immaculately styled photographs in here scare you; Gabby is still a mom — if one with stellar design sensibilities — and on closer inspection you’ll see that she totally understands that parents all need kitchen chairs that can be wiped down easily, and rugs that don’t get destroyed in four minutes. (She also admits that she had to create a “don’t flush toys down the toilet” rule which honestly gave me a big sigh of kindred spirit relief.)

Her DIY project suggestions are doable, even for me, like a smart sticky-note calendar for the walls, fabric-covered bulletin boards that I really want to make, and even hand-lettered inspirational art that I’m surprised I actually love despite myself.

That said, not every tip in the book is for every family. I can’t imagine keeping my home looking these here every single day, what with unmarked walls, nothing accumulating on my girls’ nightstands ever, no stickers on bedposts and bureaus (sigh) and a decided lack of plastic crap strewn about the bedroom from a year’s worth of birthday party goodie bags. But it’s something to strive for, for sure.

Also, know that the book is written from the point-of-view of a family with a massive home, at least by my standards. As an urban apartment-dweller, I don’t have a “low deep window seat” that I can turn into a stage for my kids’ performances, let alone a playroom. Or a laundry room. Or a family office. Or a patio. Or a guest bed. And when Gabby suggests, “no matter how tiny your space may be, there should be a place to sit in your foyer,” well that would require me to actually have a foyer.

But hey, a gal can dream. And with the vast majority of this book, I don’t even have to dream. In fact, I’m motivated to replace our living room rug, get the kids doing more chores, and start clearing off their bookshelves this weekend. Starting with some of those plastic animated character toys.

Preorder Design Mom: How to Live With Kids: A Room by Room Guide by Gabrielle Blair at our affiliate Amazon for April 7 release, or find it at your local indie bookseller. And be sure to check out her national book tour dates and say hi when Gabby comes to your town, starting with her hometown of Oakland. She’s the nicest person ever, and would love to see you.